“Well,” Caniciat said when Rakcigion returned. “Did that answer your theory?”
“I think so,” Rakcigion replied grimly. He sat down on the sand and inspected the wounds on his tail.
“How did you ever get those?” Sean asked.
“Hooks added the tail,” Rakcigion replied. “It’s a common addition for soldiers. It isn’t worn all the time though so it may be that they were expecting trouble. Maybe they saw the commotion when we fought.”
“Are you going to be okay?” Sean asked. Rakcigion nodded.
“They aren’t deep.” He pasted a thin layer of the gooey stuff on the wounds and packed them neatly with the weird fiber. In a few moments the wounds were sealed over. Rakcigion bent his tail a few times, testing how the fiber held and then nodded in satisfaction when it didn’t break off.
“So…” said Sean, “What did he say?”
Rakcigion looked up from his wounds and answered. “They don’t sell cochlen shell. And neither does anybody else who’ve come this far. It’s too expensive at the moment for them to reliably trade it.”
“So where did Chantinal get it?” Sean asked. “Or was he on a different drug?”
“Well he wasn’t selling for them,” Rakcigion said. “They didn’t know who he was.”
“So, he was getting the drugs from a source that even the main drug dealers in the area doesn’t know about?” Sean said blinking.
“Actually,” Rakcigion said. “I don’t think he bought drugs from anyone.”
“What?” Sean said frowning. Next to him Caniciat frowned as well but waited for Rakcigion to explain.
“I mean, if you take out the possibility of drugs, then there is one other substance that could cause the internal damage we saw in Chantinal’s body.”
“What?” Sean asked.
“A sedative,” Rakcigion replied.
“A sedative?” Sean said in confusion. “Like a sleeping pill?”
“Well yes. If sleeping pills utterly destroyed your insides.”
“Then why would he take it?” Sean asked.
“Because it’s strong,” Rakcigion replied. “One of the strongest sedatives ever but it’s illegal because it kills you.”
“Then where did he get his hands on it?” Caniciat asked.
“He made it,” Rakcigion said. “Look Serenti’s father complained that Chantinal would spear fish he’d been following for clicks right?”
“Right,” confirmed Sean.
“Why would he do that?” Rakcigion said. “It could be because he was just being ornery, but I don’t think so. In order to make the sedative I’m talking about, Reaper’s Sleep, you need a seaweed that grows fairly commonly in the area of Itait, artae, for heat and mercury.”
“Mercury,” Sean said.
“Yeah,” said Rakcigion. “Mercury. And because of human pollution, a lot of fish have mercury. I don’t think he was arbitrarily stealing Serenti’s father’s fish.”
“He was going after the fish with the highest mercury content,” Caniciat finished.
“So he could make the sedative,” Sean said. “But why take this sedative?”
Rakcigion looked at them and said grimly, “Because something quick and clever is moving beyond our sovereign’s borders and I think it was trying to get it’s claws into Chantinal. It managed to get its claws into Narmik. It would have gotten Chantinal…”
“If he hadn’t killed himself,” Sean said softly.
“You really think that they’re connected Rakcigion?” Caniciat asked him.
“No real proof,” Rakcigion admitted. “Nothing but my gut.”
Caniciat pondered for a moment and then he said, “Let’s meet up with Fassleti when we’re done here. I want to hear what he’s found. It may be that he could shed some light on this theory of yours.” He paused and then said, “Send the message to Itait. They’ll send it on to Teroceanican.” With that he swam over to the bunch of unconscious mermen and set himself as a guard over them.
“So,” said Rakcigion. “Want to see something cool?”
◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌
They were halfway across the valley when Rakcigion noticed Sean’s stiff shoulders. He tensed in return and Sean tried not to wince.
“Shenaragle?” Rakcigion’s voice was soft.
“It’s nothing,” Sean said.
“Are you mad about the sword thing?”
Sean glanced at him and then looked away. “No.”
“Well, you’re clearly not okay,” his father said. “I’m sorry if the outcome wasn’t what you meant…”
“Would you have killed him?” Sean asked. “I mean for real. If he hadn’t answered?”
Rakcigion glanced at him. “I knew I wouldn’t have to,” he replied. “I knew he’d give up the information.”
“But if he hadn’t,” Sean said, “Would you have just killed him?”
Rakcigion sighed. “Look, if you have a problem with threats…”
“I don’t have a problem with threats,” Sean said. “But I do have a problem if you actually carry it out. Is killing someone really so…I don’t know…casual for you? Is it so casual in your world?”
Rakcigion stopped and turned to face him. “Sean…we’re literally involved in this because of a murder and a suicide. The circuit is made to dispense justice so that things like murder don’t go unpunished in lands without formal laws. What makes you think we don’t take murder seriously?”
“Because you threatened a guy to kill him. And…the other you just killed.”
“Sean, I threatened him because I knew he was going to break. I knew I didn’t have to carry out the threat. You stay long enough in this business you get to be able to read people well enough. The threat was a tool. I didn’t wonder if I ever had to actually kill him because I knew I didn’t. So no, I wouldn’t have killed him. But that’s not actually what’s bothering you. What’s bothering you is the dead body on the other side of this sinkhole.”
Sean opened his mouth, closed it and then said in a smaller voice. “You…killed him. I just…it looked easy.”
“Well he was trying to kill me,” Rakcigion said. “I would have left him alive if I could but that wicked little blade he’d had, is made to tear off strips of amour and then strips of skin. If I’d fought to incapacitate, he’d have killed me because he was very good at combat. Yes, I made the call to kill him. No, it wasn’t easy. But I also don’t regret it because it was the right call to make. Your police officers shoot people too Sean, if they have to, if the criminals are endangering their lives or others.”
Sean sighed and slumped. “I know,” he said pressing his palms into his eyes. “It’s just…I didn’t see it coming? It was weird. I didn’t ever expect to see a parent kill someone. And I think you scared me a little.” He let his hands drop and gave a little depreciating smile. “I’m sorry. I just…”
“It shocked you,” Rakcigion said gently. “Which is perfectly understandable. Mix in the difference in our cultures and you’d obviously be worried. It’s fine.”
“Um…” Sean said. “I’m pretty sure how I acted wasn’t…?”
“I say it is,” his father said simply. He reached out and ran his claws lightly through Sean’s hair. “I am sorry I scared you, Shenaragle.”
Sean opened his mouth to issue another apology but then said, “You don’t now.”
From the way his father’s eyes lit up, it was the right thing to say.
◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌
“What are we doing?” Sean asked as Rakcigion lead him out of the valley and then shifted around a bit until he’d found a place that he was satisfied with.
“We’re sending a message,” Rakcigion said.
“How?” Sean said. “I don’t think wireless works down here.”
“Technically yes and technically no,” Rakcigion said. “Look.” With that he opened his mouth, let his gills fill his lungs with oxygen and then he screamed. Sean clamped his hand over his ears as sonic waves issued from his father’s mouth. Rakcigion stopped after a second or two and when Sean was sure that it was safe, he pulled his hands from his ears and yelled:
“What was that??!!!!”
“Welcome to cool thing number 2 about merfolk voice boxes. Not only can they work in both air and water, they can also produce high frequency soundwaves.”
“What the hell?” Sean said flatly, then, “Wait that was how you did that thing at the start of the fight? You…just screamed really loudly?”
“Okay that was a little more difficult and it takes some training to get a wide field like that. But essentially yes.”
“I…. okay,” Sean said slowly. “And how are we going to send a message? You aren’t going to shout across the entire ocean, are you?”
“No,” Said Rakcigion amused, “Then everyone will know my business.”
Sean opened his mouth, thought about it and closed it back. “Well…okay…fair enough. So…” he said after a while. “How are you going to send a message?”
Rakcigion gave him a mischievous glance. “Well a long, long time ago, someone figured out that we could use our ability to make high frequency soundwaves in far more creative ways than we managed before. There’s something about feedback loops and reverberation and something to be said for sheer power but, the end result was, packaged sound.”
“Packaged sound,” Sean repeated a little blankly. “How do you package sound?”
“Inside of sound,” Rakcigion said.
The mischievous grin made its way across his father’s face once more and then Rakcigion said, “Cover your ears but keep your eyes open.”
Sean clamped his hands back over his ears and then watched as Rakcigion took another deep breath and this time let out the soundwaves in a carefully controlled stream. Sean could see that his lips were shaping words and that the soundwaves were changing according to what he was speaking. He was sending out an amplified version of his voice. Then as the soundwaves barreled away from Rakcigion, he quickly got ahead of them and screamed again, releasing another cone of sonic soundwaves which engulfed the first. Rakcigion didn’t stop though, swimming down and around the sound waves carefully until there was a concise bubble of sound humming in the ocean but not really going anywhere, each of them knocking against the other and holding the bubble of sound together. Then Rakcigion stood back a little and added one final bust of sound. The soundwaves attached themselves to the bubble of sound and then the whole bubble of sound was off, heading in a straight line for Itait.
“Oh, come on!” Sean said crossly. “That’s not even possible!”
“Eh,” said Rakcigion, “Artae has something to do with it. It’s easier just to send the broadcasted message, that’s the first thing I did, but a packaged message generally means that it’s private and should be left alone.”
“Okay the artae thing makes everything make a bit more sense now,” Sean grumbled. “And why won’t people listen to the message anyway?”
“Let’s just say there’s been some pretty brutal repercussions in the past for reading someone’s mail,” Rakcigion said. “So now everyone just leaves them alone.”
“Huh,” said Sean. “Okay.” He paused. “So how do I do the sound thing?”
Rakcigion laughed. “Messages or just the screaming.”
“Uh,” Sean said, “Just the screaming. Pretty sure I’ll die of old age before I ever figure out the messages.”
Rakcigion snorted with laughter. “You can’t possibly be that bad,” he said. “But alright, we’ll start with the screaming.”
“Now?” Sean asked.
“Nope,” said Rakcigion. “We’ve got to move now. We’ll practice on the way.”
“You know,” said Sean thoughtfully as they made their way back to Caniciat, “my holidays are becoming far more educational than I wanted them to be.”
Rakcigion grinned. “Underwater summer school,” he said.
“And the irony is that I’m traveling with a school of fishmen,” Sean said with a perfectly straight face.
There was a moment of utter silence and then Rakcigion descended into peals of near-hysterical laughter.